The first cohort of Hillcrest Neighborhood Softball League players, 1984.

The Hillcrest Neighborhood Softball League, a recreational league for girls from Kindergarten to 12th grade, is saluting its 40th anniversary with a get-together at Allsopp Park on Saturday.

The celebration starts with food and fellowship at noon — including hot dogs, crafts, yard games and a slideshow of pictures — and will continue with an alumni game at 2 p.m. and a coaches game at 4 p.m. You can RSVP here and send nostalgic photos to info@hillcrestneighborhoodsoftball.org. Attendees are encouraged to bring along any memorabilia as well.

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Founded in 1984 by two sets of parents — Jane and Ron Newman and Mary and Robert Boyce — as a relaxed alternative to the more competitive softball environment in southwest Little Rock, the Hillcrest Neighborhood Softball League began with only two teams and about 30 players in total. Nowadays, it’s split into three age divisions — Junior (K-3rd), Senior (4th-7th) and Major (8th-12th) — each of which have about 10 teams of their own. According to board president Cora Crain, who herself played for years like most of the other board members, the league has become such an institution that all of its spots typically fill up within an hour of registration going live. 

Hillary Clinton threw the first pitch of the season when her daughter, Chelsea, played in the Hillcrest Neighborhood Softball League.

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Over the years, figures like Chelsea Clinton (Hillary Clinton threw the first pitch of the season for multiple years) and Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders have passed through the league as players, though the spirit of inclusivity and fun is what Crain sees as the thing that distinguishes it from other comparable activities.  

Girls of any skill level and experience are welcome at any age level. Great plays are celebrated big, misses are clapped away as well,” Crain said. “It’s just what’s right with the world.”

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